Question: Could you please tell me how to cook rhubarb so it will not fall to pieces? I like the way they cook it at Knott's Berry Farm.
Answer: The secret is to cook rhubarb just until tender. This takes only a few minutes, as instructed in the Cherry Rhubarb Sauce recipe from "Knott's Berry Farm Cookbook" (Armstrong: 1975). The word cherry refers to the rhubarb's red color, rather than another fruit.
CHERRY RHUBARB SAUCE
1 pound rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water
Cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. Place in large saucepan, pour sugar over and let stand 1 hour. Add water to saucepan and bring mixture to boil slowly. Cook 1 to 5 minutes until rhubarb is tender. Cool, cover and refrigerate several hours before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Q: I have always made good jelly from our apricot tree, but last year it all crystallized. Can you can tell me what the problem could be so I can keep it from happening again this year?
A: The U.S. Department of Agriculture Home and Garden Bulletin No. 56, called "How To Make Jellies, Jams and Preserves at Home," explains that crystals throughout jelly may be caused either by too much sugar in the jelly mixture or cooking the mixture too little, too slowly or too long. Crystals that form at the top of jelly that has been opened and allowed to stand are caused by evaporation of liquid.
Q: My electric power went off in the area where I keep my freezer. The power was off for a month without my knowledge and everything spoiled. The smell is still very strong even after many weeks of airing and cleaning. Can you recommend a way of getting rid of the odor?
A: Whirlpool representatives shared several techniques that they tested on consumers with the same problem and achieved success. If you haven't already done so, thoroughly wash the freezer interior with a mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in one quart of water. Pay particular attention to gaskets and crevices.
Next, sprinkle baking soda or activated charcoal (available at plant stores or hardwares) onto a jellyroll pan and place it in the closed freezer for a couple of days. A more costly alternative is to place fresh ground coffee in cereal bowls inside the freezer. It may leave a coffee aroma, but this will fade quickly.
As strange as it may sound, some people have succeeded in eliminating odors by packing the freezer with crumpled newspaper sprinkled lightly with water and leaving it closed for five to six days. You might also check hardware stores for commercial products that claim to be effective in removing odors.
If none of these techniques work, it's possible that moisture from the spoiled food leaked into the freezer lining. This can only be rectified by replacing the lining--an expensive repair that is not possible on all freezers.
Q: I have been trying to get some alfalfa sprout seeds and cannot find any resource. Can you help me?
A: Several health food stores carry the seeds either packaged or in bulk. Check the Yellow Pages for a listing of stores in your area.
In case there are no growing instructions available when you find the sprout seeds, here's how to handle them:
Place two tablespoons of seeds in a quart jar with two cups of warm water. Cover the jar opening with mesh or a sprouting lid (often available where you purchase the seeds) and soak for eight hours.
Drain off the water, rinse the seeds and drain again. Lay the jar at an angle away from sunlight until leaves appear. Then place it in sunlight to develop green leaves. Growing sprouts should be rinsed and drained twice each day, until ready to eat in three to seven days. Refrigerate the mature sprouts.